Monday, July 16, 2018

What We're Eating, What We're Not & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello friends.  Knowing the week ahead would be busy, I harvested and prepped lettuce for salads for the week.  After not harvesting blueberries a couple of days, I picked 1 1/4 lbs, though I could see the birds and critters had been enjoying them too.  I canned a few small jars of jam with them, and dried the skins that were removed for bird suet.  After having a working weekend, and knowing what the week ahead looked like,on Monday afternoon, I decided to spend a little time on natural dyeing.  For the first time, I used a mordant (alum) on the materials prior to dyeing, and gathered and simmered a dye pot of virginia creeper.  I've read it gives a peach or salmon dye.  I'm going to try cutting and boiling a larger batch, as the first gave almost no color.  I did put fabrics in the dye pot, wondering if the mordant would help, but not surprisingly, they all just look sort of dingy.   If I do get a good result, I'll be sure to share.  I added warm up water to the washer, used homemade laundry soap, and hung it on the line.  I wrote swagbucks customer support regarding a purchase that was not credited, and received the credit, several weeks earlier than I would have (you usually see it "pending" for a few weeks).  It was only for $2 and change, but it all adds up.  J returned a can of paint that wasn't needed.

After working in town, I stopped by the library and picked up a book.  The squirrels have been a real challenge here lately.  Three times during the week, I found one in the bird feeder attached to the kitchen window!  I was hoping with changing to the Squirrel Buster feeders, they'd pretty much stay in the woods, eating the masses of acorns and hickory nuts there.  But, it didn't happen.  They've been eating our immature apples and pears.  On Wednesday, I noticed our fullest peach tree was down by half.  On Thursday, while I was at work, J saw a squirrel eating a peach, and every single peach was off that tree (several dozen).  At that point, he took matters into his own hands, and I can't say I blame him.  I was really looking forward to those peaches.  There are a dozen or so left on another tree, that we'll get if we're lucky.  There are still plenty of squirrels, so I don't know.  The Japanese beetles have been munching our apples and pears.  At least half our apples are decimated.  They got our first and only nectarine too.  But hey, there are some good things.  We're still getting plenty of cucumbers, a few summer squash, and we got two beautiful eggplant this week.  Our first tomato is starting to color up.  We've picked the first 5 okra.  I'm trying to keep looking on the bright side.

I brought lunch, my water bottle and snacks for each of the days I worked shop sitting.  Though there are customers that come and go, there are always several hours that I have free. I brought the guy's bookkeeping and some of my tax stuff to work on, soaps to wrap, and went through a good amount of my ever full inbox.  I also brought several things to read.  I packed up the drain we bought in the wrong size to return.  As I hadn't been able to pick blueberries the days I worked, I did that Sunday morning, and gathered over 2 lbs.  I also picked several small apples that were ripe, though some had spots from the Japanese beetles.  I've been trying to remember to eat some blueberries every day.  On Sunday, J harvested the rest of our potatoes, cultivated, then planted seeds of cabbage, broccoli, collards, winter salad blend, rutabagas, chard and turnips.  The potato harvest was more than we expected, which was nice.  Once they're ready to store, I'll try to remember to weigh them.  Things are really dry here again, so J's been watering some every day.

On Friday evening, J integrated the chicks into the rest of the flock.  All seems to be going well on that front.  Our sick rooster is perking up some and is more interested in food, so we believe he's starting to heal.  We're happy about that.  We enjoyed cantaloupe, and brought the rinds out for the chickens, which were mightily enjoyed.  Of course, they're getting cucumbers every day too.  It's a rule that everybody on the homestead has to eat some cucumber every day :o).  Well, I look forward to catching up some around the homestead this week, and also to spending a little time with my sister later in the week.  Hope your week is a good one, friends!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Crunchy From Way Back & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, I spray painted the two lamp shades with frosted paint.  J hung them, and I again have working shades in my studio.  J created a new item for our online shop. I took photos and created the listing.  My ebay items didn't sell, so I dropped the price and relisted them.  Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  I met my initial swagbucks goal several days, and made a purchase through them for our bathroom redo, earning 4% back.  The item was marked half price, for damage to the package and possible scratches, but the item arrived in perfect condition.  I'm happy about that.  A library book was renewed online the day it was due, saving fees.  Walks with the pups were taken twice a day, getting exercise, relaxation, and keeping my weight close to where I'd like it to be.  A summer tanager sang to us from a tree one day. 

On the Fourth, we dug all the potatoes whose tops had died back.  J was disappointed with the harvest, but I was pretty happy.  I'll weigh it, but it looks like there are at least 20#, which is what we planted.  There's about 1/3 of the patch left to harvest, plus another patch planted from the tiniest of the potatoes we grew last year.  We'll harvest them before long, as the fire ants will enjoy the most of them if we don't.  Less than ideal, but at least we've got some homegrown potatoes to enjoy, even if we won't have any for winter storage.  J grilled, and I prepped some of the potatoes with our herbs.  He and M enjoyed baby back ribs that had been marked down from $19 to $4 and change for the 4th.  Our lettuce and cucumbers went into a salad, and store bought corn on the grill was enjoyed as well.  I considered making one of the flag desserts I saw during the week, as we had homegrown blueberries, as well as strawberries, cherries and watermelon.  I picked up a bag of vegan marshmallows on markdown at the local natural food store too, but in the end, we were all too stuffed.  Here's a pic of the outdoor shower.  That's one of our cisterns in the background. 

When J was going to town, I asked him to stop by Tractor Supply for animal food, and gave him a 10% off coupon to use that came in the mail. Now we're stocked up with dog, cat, chicken and bird food.  I sold a dozen eggs to a friend, and sent some cucumbers with her.  I also gave the mail carrier and a neighbor cucumbers.  The dogs, chickens and we are eating them every day, in some form.  Another day, we gave our hair dresser and J's business partner cucumbers.  I realized though I have plenty of dill pickles and dill relish on the shelf, I could use some sweet pickle relish.  This can be used in Thousand Island dressing, which has been my favorite for years.  In fact, in the afternoons when I got home in high school, my favorite snack for some time was a salad with fresh made Thousand Island.  I wasn't a vegetarian at that point, but apparently I had some crunchy leanings, to prefer a salad as an after school snack :o).  This week, I made up a batch of the relish, and for a brief window of time, had one cucumber remaining in the crisper, until that days pickings, which added another 21.  They're certainly bountiful!

On another day, I made potato salad with more of the potatoes that got cut during harvest, which also used our parsley.  On Friday, J & I went to hear live music, and took a neighbor along.  There was nothing frugal about it, but I consider music one of life's pleasures, and worth the cost.   Here's one of my favorites of his songs, which does have a frugal theme, though sadly he did not sing it that night.  On Saturday, I tried a new soup recipe, which included a gifted large zucchini, our first tromboncino, our basil, potatoes,  parsley and a jar of homemade broth.  The soup is called Burden soup, related to the burden you feel to use up large zucchinis.  I'll be making it again.  I made a salad using our lettuce and cucumber, plus store bought items to go along, and cut up and sweetened strawberries that needed to be eaten for dessert.  The coming week looks to be a busy one, with 4 days of working away from home.  I was glad to get through a pile of magazines.  Some will be going to the free basket at the library, and a couple were saved for a friend.  I also whittled down a pile of papers at the computer.  The pile is not gone, but it's smaller.   Sadly, one of our roosters suddenly became unwell.  We've isolated him, and been giving him all the natural remedies we have, hoping he'll come around.  The cooler temps on Saturday allowed us to turn off the a/c and open windows.  It's been too long, and the fresh air is delightful.

With the cooler temps, we were able to enjoy a pond sit one evening, and observed a bird catching insects at the pond.  It hovered at times, and we believe it to be a flycatcher.  Some dear friends have retired and are moving to Hawaii.  The wife is already there, and on Sunday I helped the husband by cleaning what was left in the kitchen and pantry. As he's leaving in two days, he told me to clean everything out of the fridge and cabinets.  I brought home a car full, including 2 lbs of butter, maple syrup, frozen meat and seafood, oils and balsamic vinegar and lots more, most of it organic.  He offered me their toaster, TV and DVD player.  I left the microwave, but our toaster, TV and DVD player are all having challenges, so they were most welcome.  There are also some lovely pottery bowls and mugs, and assorted kitchen items that came home with me.  I boxed up the rest, and he'll take it to a place at the local dump called the swap shop, where it will be free for the taking.  Someone will be happy to get that microwave.  When I arrived there, I heard a sound I couldn't quite identify, and began looking for a large bird in the trees.  It turns out they have two juvenile male turkeys they feed.  They were quite amusing.  Before I left, I noticed columbine and rose campion with lots of dried seed heads.  I gathered some of each, and hope they'll do well, bringing sweet memories of friends.

I sent a dozen eggs home with our neighbor.  Each time he grinds mixed grains for his cows, he offers us some for the chickens. J helps him often, to keep all his equipment running.  One day last week he dropped everything to go meet the neighbor in a field, then came home and quickly fabricated a piece to get him up and running again.  It's nice to be in a community where neighbors look out for each other.  It's been a long day.  I expect I'm forgetting things, but that'll do for now.  I hope your week brings you all manner of seasonal pleasures. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Crepes for Dinner & Breakfast and Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Well, I was wrong again, about there being woolly aphids on the roses and raspberries.  It's actually flatid planthoppers, and this time I'm sure of it.   I suppose that's why the insecticidal soap doesn't seem to be doing much.  I've noticed them before, but apparently never ID'd them correctly.  I'm glad the third time's a charm.  Though the article says they don't cause much damage, it does seem as though they're harming the plants, with the branches beyond them drying up, even the wild ones I see on my walks. That doesn't seem negligible to me.  After several weeks of no rain, we had a lovely overnight rain, and everything perked up.  Since then, it's turned hot and dry again. 

I made a Lowe's purchase for our online business with my cc, for 5% off, and will pay it off immediately.  I found a marked down Heritage raspberry for $8 while there, and purchased it.  All the others were marked $15 (1/2 price), but this was the nicest of the bunch, so I'm pretty happy.  With the above mentioned planthoppers, I've barely gotten any raspberries so far.  J & I planted this one in another location, shortly before a rain.  I spent an hour one morning harvesting all the blueberries and blackberries I could find, which netted me about 1/2 cup.  It's a good thing I enjoy this lifestyle, and also that there are grocery stores, and we're not having to live off of what we can harvest!  It is the beginning of the season here, so I'm hopeful for a better harvest.  On the other hand, I can and do collect dozens of Japanese beetles in an hour.  Oh, the life of a gardener.

I listed several items on ebay.  Our three surviving olives were mulched, and beets were weeded.  The stencils arrived, so I etched both of the light shades, only to realize the etching is not enough of a barrier for the bulbs, as it still is quite glaring.  I chose tree stencils, being the lights have metal that looks like branches as supports.  My next plan is to purchase frosted glass spray paint to cover the insides of the shades.  J doesn't think it will wash off like the original paint did.  Fingers crossed.  One night, he requested a pasta salad, which included one of our cucumbers, recanned olives, and our basil and oregano.  I took advantage of a 40% off sale, and bought 5 gifts for 3 people.  I suppose that means I've begun my Christmas shopping.  On Friday, I harvested lettuce, cucumbers, blackberries and blueberries.  I weeded the carrot bed, filled a bucket of weeds for the chickens, and gathered lambs quarter for us.  Cucumbers are a good cool treat for the chickens when the days get hot.  I cut them in half, and place them in their yard.  J suggested I try freezing them, which I did after halving them.  They seem to enjoy pecking at them and getting the cold bits.  I'd intended to harvest all my lavender before the beach trip, but only got around to one plant.  Though the other two's flowers were a bit past their prime when I harvested them, they still smell lovely.

After removing the lambs quarter leaves from the stems, I added the stems to the broth bag.  It hadn't occurred to me until recently to do this.  I gathered some thyme to dry for winter use.  Salad were made with our lettuce and cucumbers.  Eggplant parmesan was made with eggplant slices I froze last year.  That's the first time I tried freezing slices, and I must say we thought it was delicious, so I'll be doing it again, provided there's freezer room.  There were two cool nights, when we were able to open windows.  I've mentioned that we built an outdoor shower, as we won't have one when we get to that stage of the bathroom redo.  I tried it out this week, and loved it.  The first time, it was at night, almost dark.  I'd hung solar twinkly lights around it, which we already had.  Looking up into the trees, and seeing lightning bugs flicker nearby was pretty magical.  The next time was during the day.  Looking up through the trees to see the blue sky with puffy white clouds, and hearing the birdsong was also pretty special.

I've used the toaster oven to bake a couple of times this week, to cut down on heat in the house.  There have been a couple of frugal fails.  I had one last large pumpkin in storage that was gifted to us.  As the gardener who gave it isn't organic, I was saving it for a hot day for the chickens,like right about now.  Well, I waited too long, so into the compost it went.  The Olympus camera I've used the entire time I've had my online soap shop (10+ years) was a used one gifted to me by M.  It still works great, but it's not supported by Windows 10, so I've been having all sorts of wonky things happening, lately closing the page when I try to download pics.  After some research, I contacted the company, who told me one fix is to use a photo card reader.  Heeding the tech guru of the house, I purchased a reader, which turns out to be the wrong one.  I tried cancelling my order, but couldn't in time.  I've purchased the correct one, which should be here 4 days before the wrong one, so there's that at least.  I have at least 30 photos on the camera to download, including some of the outdoor shower, but we'll have to make do with some other recent photos. 

We haven't quite gotten back into our milk buying groove since the beach, and we're running low.  I made up some powdered milk to mix with liquid milk to make yogurt.  Last week, I saw mention of Brandy's mushroom & cheese crepes.  Having some baby bella mushrooms that I needed to finish using up, I decided to make crepes for dinner on Saturday.  I mixed up powdered milk for the crepes, used our eggs, and gathered oregano, parsley and thyme to add to the mushrooms and cheese.  They were good, though the crepes were a bit thick.  I left out the remaining batter Saturday night, after researching that is often how the French do it.  We had a small amount of ricotta and some sour cream that needed using.  I added vanilla and a small amount of honey to each, spread that on the crepes, then added our blueberries and blackberries for Sunday breakfast.  J liked the ricotta ones best, and I thought they were both good.  I added some milk to the batter, and the crepes were much thinner, and just right.  I can see how it would be a great way to use up leftovers.  You could even add different bits of leftovers to each one, if you just had small amounts.  I think I may add crepes to our repertoire. 

My pantry always has various concoctions "working" in jars.  I strained two jars of vanilla.  One was good as is, and I added three vanilla beans to the other jar and put it back on the shelf.  I also strained two jars of citrus cleaning vinegar, and a small batch of yellow dock and dandelion root tincture to add to the medicine cabinet.  It has been very hot and humid, and I am feeling very thankful for a/c each time I come back in from my outdoor ventures.  Sending many good wishes for a lovely week and 4th of July holiday!

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Beach Trip & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Like housekeeping, mending seems to be a task one has to do again and again.  Last week, I mended two pairs of shorts and a dress.  The Japanese beetles have arrived in force, and many were hand picked, dropped in water, and fed to the chickens.  Woolly aphids were discouraged with insecticidal soap, though it didn't seem to deter them much, as they seem to be back the next day.  Cucumbers are beginning to come in now, as well as a few blackberries and the first of the blueberries.  I made asian slaw, and chopped up the cabbage core for the pups dinner. I harvested some purslane and lambs quarter while in the garden, and chopped them up to enjoy in eggs one morning.

We took a beach trip with our granddaughter, S.  My sister & her family were renting a house.  Her eldest was not able to come for the first 4 days, so my sister asked if we'd like to.  It was a separate little guest house, and was perfect for us for 3 days.  She would not take any money, saying it would just have been sitting empty.  I took our tomatoes, basil and rosemary, plus a gifted zucchini, and made a pasta meal to share with everyone, and ingredients for a new drink she wanted to try, peach bellinis, which all of us adults tried and thought was a yummy summer beverage.   From home, I brought snacks and water bottles for the beach.  One afternoon, we went to see a lighthouse (free), and went for ice cream, a pretty inexpensive treat.  We also went to two thrift stores. J got a box fan for about 1/4 of what he had seen them online, and it's much quieter than the new one he bought not long ago.  I found 2 thick flannel pillowcases for .25 ea., and a colorful fleece blanket that S chose for $4.  I walked each morning on the beach, and we all spent time on the beach each day.  After getting home, I caught up on laundry, and made yogurt.

I tried a new recipe, for barbequed chickpeas, which included making the barbeque sauce.  I thought it was pretty good, but J didn't love it.  He agreed to try it with another bean, so I'll try it again doing that.  I enjoyed blackberries, blueberries and pawpaw (frozen last year) in smoothies, as well as the last of the fresh grapes I'd bought for the beach.   I'd frozen most of them, and will use them in smoothies as well.  M gifted me a warm winter hat that he'd crocheted.  I requested one that covers my ears, and it's purple, a favorite color.  It feels like it will be very toasty on the coldest days of winter.  Broccoli and lettuce were harvested.  They're both bolting, so I'm harvesting them while I can.  The second patch of lettuce never germinated, perhaps because the ground was already too warm.  We had several rain showers early on, so I'm pretty sure that wasn't the reason.

I'd been needing to finish painting a door for some time, and got that done over the weekend.  I painted it with chalk paint, green on the outer side and white on the inner.  As it's the main door we use, I also waxed it to help with durability.  I also got the lamp shades with peeling paint cleaned up with acetone.  I bought etching cream a few weeks ago, decided what design I wanted to use for the shades, and purchased stencils on amazon.  After checking that there was no cash back in the categories I wanted, I bought the stencils and a couple of other small items through Brandy's link, so she will get a few cents from the purchase.  I placed two more online orders, taking advantage of 10% off of each, as well as free shipping.  For Sunday dinner, I made asian cucumbers, and pizza using a frozen homemade crust, our peppers and eggplant, oregano and recanned olives, along with other vegi's.  The pizza was baked in the toaster oven, to minimize heat on a day in the upper 90's.  Wishing you a week of seasonal pleasures!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The First Blackberries & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, a basket of nettles was harvested, and a batch of tincture begun with them.  J & I planted the last of the tomatoes, eggplant & pepper seedlings in the garden before a rain.  I redeemed swagbucks for a $25 amazon gift card, bought supplements with a 20% off code, and went through ebates for an additional 3% cash back.  I took advantage of a 20% off sale to stock up on lye for my soaps.  It ended up I needed 2 more tires, a full set now, as one tire sprung a leak last week in a spot that was not fixable, on the sidewall. I bought the supplies, and J changed my oil, then I cleaned and vacuumed my car at home.  At least there were some savings there, and got my car road trip ready.

On an unseasonably cool day, when I got in from work and errands, it had still not made it out of the 60's.  Deciding to take advantage of it, I got the last 6 of the Seminole pumpkins and the one remaining cushaw squash in storage, and cleaned and baked them.  With the oven going, I decided to make tomato rice loaf, and roasted green beans (using our canned beans) for dinner.  I baked brownies using some of the Seminole squash, then froze the remainder of the squash in recipe sized amounts.  The first blackberries were harvested, as well as lettuce.  I enjoyed eating the few blackberries fresh and in smoothies.

On Wednesday, I packed up orders to ship; some Father's Day items from my soap shop, two tables and  a Berkey stand.  Then I worked on painting three more Berkey stands.  Our online businesses have been keeping us busy, for which we are most appreciative. A salad was made using our lettuce and first cucumber, and home canned pickled beets.  Many flowers are blooming on the homestead.  I cut a bouquet for us to enjoy in the house.  The heat and rain has caused many mushrooms to sprout as well.

The Japanese beetles have been increasing in number.  I've been gathering them every chance I get, and feeding them to the chickens, some small consolation..  The last two borage seedlings were planted in the ground, so finally, all the seedlings are planted.  There are tiny cucumbers and squash, and one little tomato in the garden, hope of good things to come.  J found fire ants in our potato patch.  They've eaten our potatoes in the past, which is mighty discouraging.  He has treated them several times already with the highest power organic treatment we have,  but it only seems to slow them down.  He's been pondering a new method of growing to try next year. The trials and tribulations of growing a garden.  Wishing you a most magical solstice week, friends.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Tart, Bug Duty & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Last week, a friend and I shared a bucket of strawberries from the farmer's market.  When we walked by the first time, they were priced $13.  When we walked by again, they were priced $10, but what sold me was the fact that they used no herbicides or pesticides. They were beautiful and very fragrant berries, which also didn't hurt.  J and I ate them fresh, and I used them in smoothies a few days.  A friend with German heritage had given me a pan for fruit tarts, and I decided to use it for the first time to make a strawberry tart (this one).  I tweaked the recipe, using homemade vanilla pudding and didn't use glaze,which J said they never used in the area he lived in Germany anyway.  I did a silly thing, and filled it before moving it off the wire rack.  It was delicious anyway.  I haven't quite figured out why we don't get strawberries from our plants.  We  must have at least 3 dozen plants scattered around.  I often see what appear to be starts of little fruits, but none develop.  There are so many pollinators here, I really don't think that's it.  I'll try feeding them.

The dahlia was one J got me at the grocery store a few weeks ago. It seems happy in the ground.  When I pulled in to park at the hair salon last week, I noticed a mullein plant at the edge of the grass.  When the owner pulled up, I began telling her the medicinal benefits of the plant.  She had been looking at it just a day or two before with a friend, wondering what it was, and was excited to hear about it.  While waiting during my coloring, we researched several more benefits than I'd known of, and she was planning on making an oil from it, and possibly more by the time I left.  This was new territory for her, and I was happy to share my love of the many benefits of plants.

I was thankful I managed to talk J into going with me to get my tires rotated last week, as cars are an area in which I don't have much knowledge.  Well, the plan was to rotate them, but it turns out I needed two new tires and front brakes.  One of the tires was so bad it had a broken belt.  The mechanic showed J what he saw, and J agreed with him.  Thankfully, he took care of both while we waited.  An unplanned expense, but we've got an upcoming road trip, and I'm thankful we'll be safer on the road.  After letting it lapse several months, I renewed my AAA at a discounted rate, with the road trip in mind.   I've really been enjoying the Victoria series through Netflix, and watched my favorite episode so far this week, one in which they are lost in Scotland.  I enjoyed listening to free Pandora and podcasts.

One dinner, I made Brandy's Spanish rice recipe, and made bean burritos to go with it.  I froze half of the spanish rice, and used our lettuce and tomatoes, recanned black olives and dehydrated onion in the meal.  I've stopped harvesting asparagus, and will let the remainder put energy into next year's growth.  I'm very happy that our asparagus bed is regenerating after we relocated it.  Various seedlings were watered with the water I had used to wash lettuce.  I fed other plants with fish emulsion.  Our gardenia was cold hurt this winter, but it's reviving.  I enjoyed the single bloom while it lasted.  The peanuts I planted are coming up very nicely.  Now, if the deer will just stay away.  The amaranth is coming up, though a bit spotty.  Suet, yogurt and hummingbird food were made.  On nights that were cool enough, we turned off A/C and opened windows.  I requested several books from the library, and made a purchase through swagbucks, saving 5%.

I harvested our first cucumber, as well as broccoli, lettuce and mulberries. Laundry was done with homemade soap, and hung on the line.  A batch of soap gel was made using soap scraps and water.  Our bathroom redo and outdoor shower are coming along, thanks to J's hard work.  When we checked online, it said our hardware store had 4' sections of privacy fence in stock.  It turns out they didn't, but they gave us half off two 6' sections that had damage at the bottom, which worked perfectly for what we needed, and was less than the 4' sections would have been.  By Saturday evening, J had our outdoor shower up and running.  We'll have to try it out soon!  Every year there are branches that reach for the light, and need trimming along the walking path.  I put the large pruners on the mower, and mowed and pruned as I went, saving me from carrying it's weight about a half a mile.  These days the guys usually do the mowing, but there is a lot of scullcap growing right now along the path, which I make into medicine every few years, and I wanted to make sure it was able to regenerate.   

Since my favorite vet moved out of state, I took Guinness to a new holistic vet, who is an hour away.  I found out our local Tractor Supply does vet clinics every Saturday morning, so J & I took him there for his rabies update.  This saved driving time, money, and we were given coupons for a free 5 lb. bag of dogfood, and 10% off treats, a bag of which was already in my cart.  There was a bit of a wait, but the benefits outweighed the minor inconvenience.  We picked up needed chicken supplies while there too.  We have so many pests around here. I recently thought it was scale on the raspberries, but it's actually woolly aphids.  I also found them on the roses and bee balm.  I've made a couple of rounds with insecticidal soap to deter them.  Japanese beetles have arrived, though so far there are not too many.  For those, I carry a container of water with a drop or two of soap, and collect them off the plants.  Bug duty :o).  For more encouragement of a frugal nature, visit Brandy and her virtual frugal community.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Wildlife on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  This is the handmade bed cover I bought at  a Hospice auction recently.  It's just one thickness, and seems to have a sheet as a base.  I plan to sew another sheet to the back, once I figure out how to best attach it.  We still have Seminole pumpkins in storage from last year's harvest.  I cut up and boiled two pumpkins, made a batch of brownie's with some, and froze the rest.  It doesn't sound like they'd be good, but they're amazingly moist, and wonderfully tasty without any hint of squash.  I stopped by a thrift store, hoping to find some clothing items for my granddaughter.  I found several things for her, as well as a vintage cotton sheet and cotton pajama pants for me, and they were having a 50% off sale on everything!

Getting only a few green pea pods a day, I'd been saving them. When I finally shelled them, I had just over a cup of peas, and tried a recipe for creamed peas.  Wanting to try something new with the lambs quarter, I found a recipe for a frittata, which also used our eggs.  Another recipe I want to try called for 1 1/2 lbs of lambs quarter, so I'll save that one for the future.  When J had a business meeting several towns away, he picked up a few groceries, including organic corn on the cob.  It was expensive, but I never see it locally, so I'm very happy he got some.  It rounded out the meal nicely.  This photo is the best I could do to show my new hummingbird feeder in action.

We're still getting plenty of rain, and I'm still planting.  I transplanted several sunflowers that volunteered around the bird feeders, planted butterfly weed seeds in several spots, a few nasturtium seeds, and replanted a geranium I bought recently into a pottery pot. The dutchman's pipe, along with 4 artichoke plants were planted, but sadly the dutchman's pipe may not make it.  I'm not sure if it's the above average rain we've been getting, or another cause.  Purslane was gathered, and used with lambs quarter and recanned black olives in eggs for a breakfast.  I typically turn our compost crock upside down against a rock outdoors, to allow it to dry after washings.  When I picked it up one day this week, there was a toad underneath, enjoying the cool.  I have a barrel full of broken pottery, which I'd been saving to eventually turn into mosaics.  I grabbed some of the larger shards, set two on the ground for toads, and put another two in birdbaths for bees and butterflies to rest on.

One night, as we were heading for a pond sit, J noticed a turtle laying eggs near the pond.  I think it's very neat that she felt it was a good and safe place to do that.  Homemade lemonade was enjoyed on a hot day, after outdoor chores.  Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.  A couple of lavender flowers were gathered.  We enjoyed the last of the kale in a salad, letting the remainder go to seed.  Two bags of our okra were pulled from the freezer and cooked in the wok.  I made what I call a hearty salad with our lettuce, peas and boiled egg, plus some grocery items (feta cheese, pecans, avocado, carrots, cucumber).

Thinking about what will serve us best as we age, we decided to do a bit of a bathroom renovation.  J got started on it this weekend.  It will take a while to finish, but a good start is a wonderful thing.  The elderberries are in bloom.  On our way to the chicken pen, J noticed a birds nest in a clump of elderberry.  I snapped a a photo while mama was away.  Though it was hard to be certain, it looked like it may have been one of the larger thrushes I've been noticing around the garden sitting on the nest when we returned.  Between the webcam set up near the pond, the turtle laying eggs and this nest, the focus seems to be wildlife around here recently.  It's a blessing to live around the wild things... well, most of the time.

Heading to the chicken pen to give them a treat of oats and clabbered milk, we also were wanting to see if we could determine which of the chicks were pullets and cockerels.  We both agreed that it appears two of the chicks will be roosters, which gives us four more hens.  The ratio could be worse. I made blueberry scones for breakfast Sunday morning.  We picked up beets on Saturday, and grilled most on Sunday, along with our asparagus.  That will likely be the last batch of asparagus for the year; so good while it lasted.  Onward to cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and more.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Love of Birds & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  Looking out the kitchen window one morning, I saw this.  I decided the birds were sending back some love to me.  Last week, kale and lettuce were harvested, and salads made with both.  For the lettuce salad, I gathered tips of wild cat brier to add.  I rearranged my closet seasonally, and added a shirt I hadn't worn to the giveaway box.  There is about one and a half feet beyond the door of the closets that is difficult to get to.  I swap out the off season clothes to go in that area, making the current clothes easy to get to.  I made hummus for a gathering from pantry items, and we enjoyed the leftovers.  A pack of okra was pulled from the freezer for dinner.  Joseph called me to the garden one day, to look at a snake, and after researching, we determined it to be this one.  It's been a bit of a snaky year here, including some new to us ones.

 The amaryllis did bloom.  Isn't it a vibrant color?  I was pleased with myself for taking down ceiling light shades to clean, a task I've needed to do for some time in the studio.  That lasted about a minute, at which point the color on the shades started sloughing off in the sink, with only water and my hand lightly rubbing them.  J says the color was spray painted on to the clear glass. These were not especially cheap lights.  I looked and found that I ordered them on overstock 2 1/2 years ago, and they had a 1 year warranty.  I did go back and change my review of them at overstock, as they are still selling them.  Now I have to get the remainder of the paint off, then decide what to do.  I'm pondering etching them, but need to research how toxic the solution is.  Sheesh!  If you've got any ideas, please share.

I read an article on how to best wash produce to remove pesticides, with some of the latest research.  I grow food organically, and buy organic as much as possible, but do buy conventional produce too, so good to know.  I strung twine to help the hummingbird vine climb the new trellis.   The first mulberries and raspberries were harvested, though the birds are not wanting to share many.  The wintersown amaranth seedlings were very spindly, so I direct seeded this and another type in the pond garden as well.  I also shelled peanuts we grew two years ago, and planted the biggest seeds in a couple of small patches in the pond garden.  I hope the deer will not bother them quite as much in this garden.   The last of our sweet potatoes were cooked, small ones for us, and the smallest ones for the pups.

I picked up a few items at the grocery store.  Their rewards card reader wasn't working, so they were giving 15% off (update: that's what the cashier said, but when I checked my receipt, it was 6%... still nice) the entire order, which was a lovely surprise.  There was a nice patch of lambs quarter in the pond garden.  J was wanting to weed there, which encouraged me to harvest them first.  I got around 2 gallons worth of the upper tips, while enjoying pleasant morning temps in the garden.  I made a dilute mixture of fish emulsion, and fed the tomato and other seedlings.  The first deployment of the game camera was a short one, as I got a late start.  The camera card is not one we have a port for, so I took it to the library to view, and found several episodes of a deer happily munching in our road garden.  We decided not to plant there this spring, being they previously decimated our peanut and crowder peas there.  It's the farthest garden from the house, and we haven't figured what we could plant that deer wouldn't eat, that also needed little attention.  The camera was deployed for the next 3 week session, this time at the edge of the woods near the pond.

The chicks are doing well, and growing.  I planted another round of lettuce, and transplanted 6 lambs ear that had volunteered in the grass beyond a bed's border.   I expect the lettuce will bolt quickly, but hopefully we'll get a few salads from it first.  The beet bed was weeded, and the weeds brought to the chickens.  Some of the seedlings I started were puny, and not thriving, so I decided they'd be better off in the ground.  These included red and golden orach, calendula,  marigolds, tithonia and swiss chard.  J planted all the tomato seedlings that were of good size in the garden.  I transplanted all the remaining  tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from trays into pots, and watered them with diluted fish emulsion.  An order of jewelweed and pussy willow plants arrived last week.  After resting in the shade a few days, we planted them.  I have fond memories of pussy willows, as we had one at my childhood home.  I hope they'll do well.

We attended a celebration of life last Sunday. The man that had passed was a wonderful gardener, and we walked around admiring his gardens, including some rustic cedar arbors.  J was inspired, and built one for the start of the path to the house last week.  With his shop just across the driveway, I like that it seems to be a transition from public to private space.  I've ordered a dutchman's pipe vine to climb the arbor, which is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies.  I try to set out plants and seeds just before rainy days, and being we've had a few of those, gardening has been a priority the past week.  I did get a couple of spring cleaning chores accomplished.  The wood stove was blacked, and the hearth bricks were scrubbed.  Because the original plan was for the wood stove and the wood cook stove to be back to back on the hearth, it measures about 4' x 8'.  An island now lives where the cook stove once did, but the large brick hearth remains.  I have swept and vacuumed the hearth, but this is the first time I've scrubbed the bricks.  They surely look a lot better.  Now if I can just get the rest of the spring cleaning done before the garden really kicks in, I'll be a happy camper.

Broccoli, peas and asparagus were harvested.  With the effects of the tropical storm headed this way, Memorial Day was forecast to be a rainy one here.  So on Sunday, J grilled some things, including green beans I had canned.  I seasoned them with onions and garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey and thyme.  It's the first time we tried grilling canned green beans, and we thought they were tasty, if just a bit softer than fresh.  Whether rain or shine where you are, wishing you a lovely Memorial Day.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Life on the Homestead & Frugal Accomplishments

Hello, friends.  I always keep my eye out for a good butter sale.  I almost passed it by, as the price was still about $6.50 for a lb of organic butter.  But then, I noticed a "special today" sticker on the butter, and it was marked  $3.18, which is great for organic butter here these days.  The best buy date was in two more days, so I bought all 7, and froze them when I got home.  We should be good on butter for a while now.  J had gotten a coupon for free dog food in the mail (7 small trays of wet food for small dogs).  It's not a natural brand, and something I wouldn't normally buy, but I was happy to pick it up for free, and add it to our stored food for the pups.  We've enjoyed several salads with our lettuce.  A dinner of broccoli fried rice used our eggs and broccoli.

Asparagus, rosemary, oregano and peas were harvested.  I sold a dozen eggs, and transplanted two volunteer swiss chard plants in the garden.  J transplanted several volunteer dill plants.  I ordered a few things on amazon, most of it supplies for our online shop, which will get 4% back.  I also used a .75 reward on the purchase.  The house plants were all finally brought outside for the warm months. Now I really need to get serious about spring cleaning.  As soon as I put the last one in a large stand J made to hold them, it began raining, so all the dishes and tiles that were below the plants, and plant stands, were put on the porch floor to move another time. 

My first daily swagbucks goal was made several days.  I continue to walk with the pups, most days  we walk twice for about 4 miles total.  J was accepted recently into VA healthcare, and had his first visit last week.  Though we're both in pretty good shape, he hadn't seen a Dr. in several years, and we're very thankful he can have some things checked.  I harvested red clover blossoms to dry for medicine.  I snipped nettles, dandelion and violet leaves, and enjoyed them in an omelet.  I made another batch of chick food, using wheat I ground, ground corn from a neighbor, dried nettles and lambs quarter grown here, and dried milk and kelp from the pantry.  Wild lettuce, plantain, mock strawberries and dandelion greens were gathered for the chickens.  My daughter in spirit gifted me a hummingbird feeder for Mother's Day.  J and I had created a new flower bed for hummingbird vine last weekend, and the supports seemed a perfect spot to put the feeder.

The Hospice where I do massage regularly has silent auctions to raise money for various causes.  I bid on a beautiful quilted bed cover recently, and found out I won it for $5 last week!  The woman who takes care of my schedule will bid for me if I let her know to.  I told her to bid to $20, but nobody bid after me.  I've been looking for a summer weight bed cover, as one we bought online in the fall for this is too heavy.  This one will be perfect.  I'm pondering sewing a sheet on the back, in part to protect it, as it's just one thin layer.  I'm tickled to have won it.  A few weeks ago, I received a letter stating that I was receiving $300 less of my tax refund, as their records differed from mine.  It turns out because I paid estimated taxes as a single woman, but then married last year, that money had not been applied properly.  I had my tax person call, because a phone call to the IRS is something I'll gladly pay for, and I should be getting the $300 within the next two weeks.

Windows have been opened when it's cool enough, usually bedtime to mid morning.  During the day, I close up, and use a fan if needed.  When J comes in in the evening, he's usually ready for some A/C after working in the heat all day, so we run it a little while to cool things off and lower the humidity.  I planted an amaryllis outside I had bought during the winter.  I was surprised to see one I had planted outside from another year looks almost ready to bloom, which will be a first. The wintersown mignonette and amaranth were planted.  A friend and I went to a rummage sale at the local cooperative extension office, and I purchased cleome and creeping moss sedum, and a new pack of Wall O Waters for $1.  Afterwards, we went to the discount grocery.  We both found a few items, but it's sadly becoming more furniture and stuff, and the food is dwindling.  She gifted me jigsaw puzzles and a chicken tote bag.  While out, I also purchased parsley, and all of these were planted on Saturday, in between rain showers.

 dance of the walking onions
Sadly, while I was out on Friday, one of our hens died.  She'd been doing poorly for a couple of weeks. I'd isolated her, given her electrolytes and yogurt, and had a remedy ordered that arrived a day too late.  Then on Saturday, J found our little, weak chick dead.  The way she looked, he thought her internal organs never properly developed.  Sad days on the homestead.  The other chicks and chickens all are looking good, so we'll hope that there will be no more sickness or losses this year.

female kiwi w/ possible tiny kiwi fruits
There is quite a bit of fruit doing well at the moment.  Lots of apples, blueberries, pawpaws, some peaches, raspberries and plums, mulberries, and our male kiwi is blooming for the first time!  It doesn't have as many blooms as the female, but hopefully enough to help pollinate a good amount of fruit.  We've been waiting many years for kiwis.  We enjoyed sitting on our porch one evening, watching all the birds at and around the feeders.  We observed a chickadee taking suet back to one of the bird houses, and another feeding 5 others on a nearby tree.  We assumed they were the little ones, though they all looked about the same size.

Yogurt and suet for the birds was made.  Not long ago, I did training for a course called Candid Critters, where our local library has joined with the Smithsonian to find out more about wildlife populations.  Last week, I picked up a camera at the library, and have set it up on our land for the first deployment. In late May, I'll move it to another location, and download any photos it took.  So, the update on the honeysuckle lemonade is that it's OK.  There's not any noticeable difference with the honeysuckle in it.  Perhaps there is with different honeysuckles.  Because of the extra work and time, I'll stick to regular and lavender lemonade from now on. Unless, of course, another type catches my eye :o).  Wishing you good things to drink and eat this week.